Sunday, 24 February 2013

A New Artist in The House!

Creation and the Story of Joseph
Each 10" X 10" on canvas, acrylic paint & pages of scripture embedded.

"If  you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." 
Vincent Van Gohh

I am coming to you today with this question, What makes art art?

I have a reason for this question for something has happened in our household. Get ready, are you sitting down? I have something very special to share. My wife Wilma is painting! You did read right, my wife is painting! I that not amazing and fantastic? 

By her own admission she's always lamented her lack of "talent" when it came to creating anything even close to "art". She married me because, I was an artist! (You have no idea how I worked that angle!)  She has two children who are artistic! She's recruited family members to decorate her living room with "art". 

Suddenly, I think she just got fed up with being the only one not doing "art" in our family. She had an idea. 

Here's what happened. Over the years as our parents have all now passed away, there is an abundance of Bible's we have collected in our basement storage area. Bible's from our parents, from relatives, from our own past lives. As these have piled up we have constantly been asking ourselves, what do you do with old Bibles? That is the question!

A  Portion of the Gospel of John
4" X 4" on board, scripture embedded

Because of her doubt about being an artist and spending money on, (in her mind,) this foolish idea she had, she began by going to the dollar store buying small canvases and to Home Depot for quarts of paint. She managed to sneak all of this into the basement and began working on her secret plan. 

Then came the most difficult part. She had to begin with one of these historical family keepsakes, one of our PARENTS BIBLES. She very carefully chose one and with great reverence and trembling, "gingerly" and with great care, "TORE OUT" the pages of a specially chosen passage, like for example, her father's favourite Psalm....Handling it all like TNT explosives, she "painted" these onto the canvas. She used the paint both as glue to hold the pages on the canvas and as the colour of the work. The pages, flat or crumpled, were embedded into the work itself, often creating interesting texture for the work.

After that initial event, the dam has burst and she's been going crazy, with much doubt and anxiety of course, creating more scripture embedded paintings, covering our basement walls.

Now of course, Wilma doubts that this is art! I on the other hand know the deep history of this story and of her heart. You probably know our story and she has, as a mother gone through hell and back with the murder of her daughter. We've had the pre-lim and the trial. Coming up this April 16 & 17 is the appeal. How is it that she could come out of that with the sweet attitude she has? I believe her  "art" is a loud shout to whoever will listen, as to the answer to that question. Again a beautiful metaphor of the "word" making a difference when it is "embedded" in ones life, as it is in hers.

Is it art? Here's my take, if the artists work was able to move you, you, it's art. 

When I go into the basement and see these pieces on the walls "I" am moved. I has changed how the basement feels. They represent, not only the beautiful history and impact of this "word" in the world around us, but more than anything how it has been the rock for our journey and experience in this world. I love this art.

The Whole New Testament on Canvas!
24" X 30" on canvas, acrylic paint & pages of the New Testament embedded.

"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance."

"I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you."
Psalm 119:11

Sunday, 17 February 2013

An Ugly Mind and Body

By Julius Kronberg

As the work on the throne of swords is nearing it's end I am now once again confronted with the question of how I represent King Saul on his "Throne of Swords". 

The two aspects of the sculpture, the throne and the king that sits upon it must blend in some way to represent a united message of the whole piece. One is an inanimate object, the other a person. I have to believe the inanimate is an extension of the other.

The throne speaks of, and is an extension of the one who made it. Any throne, is a symbol of leadership and power. It will give clues as to the nature of how this leadership and power will be expressed. A throne covered with sharp swords and knives is a rather clear and direct message of confrontation, bloodshed, deceit and violence as being the way the king that designed it will go about leading his nation. This of course is exactly the story line of the TV series from which the image of this throne is taken. And, it's the story line of King Saul, known also as "a bloody king."

Even though King Saul, as far as we know never actually had a throne like this made for himself, his life demonstrated exactly this kind of leadership as the very first king of Israel. 

This is one thing I so appreciate about the Bible, there is simply no fear of sharing not only the good about people, but also certainly cuts no corners in also revealing the ugly side of humanity. If I had been in charge of what goes into the Bible I would have tended to hide that kind of stuff I'm sure. 

This is a story of many missed opportunities, of a wasted life really. The only good thing about Saul was that David who had been anointed to become the next king was able to see how not to deal with his God and how not to run a nation!

So, the question is how dose one depict this kind of person? Well, I'm thinking that since his philosophy of life was all about himself, his comfort, getting what he wanted in his own way, making crazy inconsistent decisions, unforgiving, angry, bitter, and violent, ruled by his own uncontrolled emotions and passions, I would have to make him "ugly".  His body ravaged by hate and bitterness. His mind full of horrible fantasies, jealousies and fears of all around him,  trusting no one.

In the end this man was such a tragic figure. An embarrassment as a king and a leader. A disgrace to himself, his family, his own nation, to the countries around him and of course to his God. 

I have to make an ugly ravaged body of a man, an ugly ravaged mind of a man on an ugly angry throne!

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:22-23.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

I Had a Dream

 The back of the throne continues.

Hi, my name is Cliff and I have just got a new job. (cheers and applause) Yes, thank you, I appreciate that. I now represent "Clifton Cutting Utensils, Sundry Swords and Knives Co. Ltd." and (crowd breaks in with more hoots and cheers.) I was wondering if you wouldn't mind me practising my sales pitch on you. (crowd hollers and fist pumps with joy...) I step back and just stand there working to get my "game face" on, focusing....thinking, "What the heck is that first line they taught me? The one that once I get started will help me remember the whole routine kind of line...OK I think I got it..." 

So have you had this constant nagging problem of your swords and knives breaking, or getting dull or not just not available when you need (crowd gives smattering of yes's etc.) Yes, well, I understand completely.

Let me show you this amazing collection of knives...I struggle to pick up, lift and hold up the surprisingly large and heavy nicely decorated box holding all the knives and swords, wow did I say it was heavy? The first thing that happens is the weight of the metal breaks open the bottom of the box and with a very loud crash, they all fall out onto the floor! I have to actually stumble, I mean jump out to the way to avoid getting impaled to to floor by these great, high quality, sharp cutting instruments, What a disaster!

"I'm so sorry, so sorry..." I mumble as I'm trying to gather up all these beautiful, shiny cutting instruments that I am hoping to sell. The crowd so understanding, cheers me on as I'm now looking for a piece of cloth...paper towelling...some-
thing...anything as in the panic
I have cut myself pretty good on one of the razor sharp swords... 

I pull out my shirt-tail thinking this should do for now...

In desperation, I finally just kick the pile of bloody swords and knives into kind of a pile to the side.

Meanwhile I'm holding my cut finger to keep it from spouting blood, fumbling with the shirttail to put pressure on the cut, deciding to use my thumb and the shirttail to pressure-stop the flow...

OK, I must continue...I think I can with my free hand I bring out my tomato! 

Exactly, what do you sell a sword you still have to use the tomato know, to illustrate how incredibly sharp these things really are...

I suddenly realise I only have one hand that works, the other is out with an injury, and is in the emergency ward, connected to my now bloody shirttail which is squeezed between my thumb and injured finger, slowing down, sort of, the flow of blood from my bleeding finger!

I lay the "very red" tomato onto the TV tray I brought from home. I got it for an amazing price 15 years ago from a very handy discount store in the neighbourhood, you know, the basic flimsy cardboard top with these thin metal legs you fold out. The crowd to my surprise, is going simply mad with laughter and hoots as I lay the "red" tomato on the TV tray... (I never noticed how red these things are before!)

With the crowd going so crazy, I'm looking around to see what is so funny! Of course, I have to check first of all, to see if my fly is open, nope. I'm thinking it must be the blood. What do you know, It's become a 'blood-sport' now? Wow, crowds are so fickle...

I turn to the pile of swords and knives on the floor. Blood is now showing up everywhere. I guess my finger is still bleeding, I can see blood on my pants, the crotch area, the pant leg...

The crowd is now standing....yelling...chanting..."use the big sword, use the big sword..." I'm having some trouble with my vision, I'm thinking I'm going to have to have my glasses checked...I'm having trouble choosing a sword, I think I'm seeing double...most strange though is I'm also "seeing red"...I'm bending over to grab one of the red swords...

For some strange reason, everything goes black...

"He said to them, "Listen to the dream I had..."
Genesis 37:6

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Battling Procrastination!

 Leather hard swords ready to be 
attached to the throne chair.

So, I have a whole chair, "throne" to be covered by hundreds of swords!

When I began this project, I had no idea the level of tediousness this would entail. A large part of this task has been to overcome just this daunting aspect of the task.

Looking up the word "tedious" I discover just what I'm experiencing;
"1. Tiresome by reason of length, slowness, or dullness, boring.
2. Moving or progressing very slowly.
Synonyms: boredom, dryness, dullness, monotony, sameness, tiresomeness."

I know what I need to do. Make another sword and place it on the chair structure. Simple. I'd rather read, eat, do laundry, buy something, have a coffee with someone, anyone, shovel the driveway, rather than make another sword! I have become a procrastinator! There I said it. And don't tell me I need a sword to fight it! :-)

Meanwhile, the project sits there, mocking me, gathering dust! Actually, drying up on me. 

One day, I got frustrated with the slow progress of making swords and came up with a new technique. This got my juiciness running again and I was excited. At first I'd been mostly carving the swords out of the chair structure. My new idea was a good one. I could actually make several swords at once doing it in this new way. 

I roll out a flat sheet of clay and cut out the forms for the swords. Then, using the end of a dowel, I use it to roll out the sharp two edges of each sword. After this I let them dry to leather hard state. Which of course doesn't not take long as the swords are thin in the first place. Once leather hard, they are easy the handle, as they are dry enough to keep their shape as I lift and move them about, laying them on the chair to plan for it's best location. As I cover one side with wet clay slurry the sword softens again and becomes just pliable enough to bend easily as it is pressed and bent as needed into it's location on the chair. After that the guard and handle are set into place. 

This procedure has increased the pace quite a bit and so I am much encouraged. I'm beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, as now, the front of the chair is done, yes, and what a celebration that was! Now, I just need to do the back. Yes, that large, huge, 24 inch high back area....

OK, it is a pretty dim light, but a light none the less. 

Thank you for being a friend, listening to me and helping me be accountable  Helps push me forward in times like this. You must know this, just your presence makes me a better sculptor. Thank you.

"But in order not to weary you further, I would request that you be kind enough to hear us (Me!) briefly." Acts 24:4 

Saturday, 2 February 2013

In Honor of Pioneer Women!

Gaetanne Sylvester

Last night on a very crisp, cold Winnipeg Friday evening, my wife and I braved the weather and went to the opening of an art show at the Mennonite Heritage Centre Gallery. It was entitled "Metaphors in Cloth and Clay" the artists being Ingrid Lincoln and Gaetanne Sylvester. 

I was particularly struck by the use of lace as a metaphor for the pioneer women who worked quietly and diligently behind the scenes, during those many challenging years as "the west was won". Suggesting strength, fragility, beauty and creativity, qualities all needed in those years of labour and struggle. 

As Sylvester puts it, "Clay has had a particular significance for me ever since I was first exposed to it in the late eighties. It mimics life in that it is sensual and organic and yet after witnessing fire it becomes durable and strong while retaining a compelling fragility.

I use hand building techniques, primarily low-fire earthenware, paper-clay  stains, under-glazes and glazes. I am more interested in shapes and organic texture than glaze formulations.
My experience and my observations of life around me along with my research into the genome, fertility, and history continue to inspire and inform my work."

She was born in Manitoba and has participated in exhibitions across Canada, in New York, Denver, Hong Kong, and Mexico. She has her studio in Winnipeg's exchange district.

I felt the show as a whole was pretty clinical and calculated, lacking somewhat in passion. Yet, her work is well travelled, recognised and well known.  

It is encouraging in that a Winnipeg artist is making a success of her multimedia work, including clay.

"She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet." Prov. 31:20-21